Wednesday, June 1, 2022

When Writing Gets Tough, Write Differently

Sometimes it takes a village to get a writer unstuck!

Many years ago I attended an education workshop, Don’t Try Harder, Try Differently. What a great title! Although it may have been intended for teachers, it applies to writers too.  Don’t keep doing the thing that doesn’t work!

It used to be when I got stuck, I would just try harder.

This chapter or scene isn’t working? Just write the next one.

Keep getting rejections? Just send out more queries.

The novel isn’t working. My critique partners hate it, and maybe I hate it too. Just finish it.

But none of these things worked all that well.

What has worked:

1.    Accepting limits. Very few writers have the luxury to just write. Most of us are juggling work and family obligations. Recently, I’ve lowered my expectations for myself to writing one chapter every 1-2 weeks. I may be able to accomplish more in the summer when I’m not teaching. But I’ve also been exploring shorter types of writing: picture books, short stories. There’s something about taking the pressure off that makes me more creative.

2.    Take a break. It used to be when I hit a tough spot in my writing, I’d just press through. But I ended up with a whole mess of a novel. Now I see there’s always a reason for getting stuck. Sometimes it’s a plot hole or character acting out of character. It’s better to stop and regroup before I barrel through the end.

3.    Write outside your normal genre or write something just for fun. If I’m stuck with a novel draft, it helps to focus on shorter works, blogging, or maybe just writing in response to a prompt. (I’ve published two short stories from writing prompts!) It gives me a quick win. Poetry and journal writing are also good outlets.

4.    Read! When none of the above works, I read for fun. Sometimes a story will inspire me to go back to the project I’m struggling with. Sometimes it just reminds me why I write: to create for others the wonderful experiences I’ve had while immersed in a book.

5.    Community! I’m an introvert, and I don’t like group projects! But I have found that I really need other writers to keep me writing. Whether it’s swapping chapters over coffee, attending SCBWI webinars, or connecting with the #ISWG group each month, I need that outside accountability and inspiration to keep me going in the trenches.

How do you deal with the rough patches with your writing?

Photo credit: Aubrey Odom-Mabey, Unsplash

If you'd like to read more ISWG posts or sign up, please go HERE. You won't be disappointed.